Bike Racing Club brings energy and excitement to bike racing

By Christina Yacono

(Courtesy of the Bike Racing Club)
(Courtesy of the Bike Racing Club)

Throughout the school year, the University of Massachusetts Bike Racing Club takes weekend trips to various mountains, tracks and trails to compete with other colleges across the country.

The fall season includes cross-country mountain-biking and downhill mountain-biking. The winter season has cyclo-cross, which is a short distance track where the rider gets off their bike to avoid obstacles, carries their bike and mounts up again until they reach the end. The warmer spring weather is for cycling on the road.

Every member of the club partakes in different types of bike racing. Cross-country mountain and downhill biking are Club Secretary Andrew Mack’s specialties.

“Downhill biking is like riding a roller coaster without being strapped in, and it’s dangerous, but I think racing on the road is even more dangerous,” Mack said.

Cross-country mountain tracks range from three to seven mile loops, and better racers are placed in higher categories, which require more laps to complete a race.

In the downhill discipline, the rider takes a ski lift up and races down the mountain, at speeds of up to 40 miles per hour.

Mack prefers the mountain to road as “you can only blame yourself for getting injured, but on the road it’s different.”

Mack joined freshman year not knowing anything about mountain biking. He hadn’t ridden in the past but took a leap of faith and joined the club.

“I wanted to pursue a new sport and try something new, he said. “It was really cool because I could go by myself or with a bunch of friends.”

As part of the Eastern Collegiate Cycling Conference, the team travels to different states, including New York, New Hampshire, Vermont and Pennsylvania.

They stay overnight to compete in two different competitions on Saturday and Sunday. Saturday’s competition is cross-country mountain-biking, and Sunday’s competition is downhill mountain-biking and short track, which tests how many laps a biker can complete in a predetermined amount of time.

Mack says that one of the benefits of traveling every weekend is becoming good friends with people from other colleges.

“I’ve had some of my best memories in this club,” Mack said.

The club always encourages beginner riders to get involved.

“People start with cross-country mountain-biking because no one really gets hurt, and it’s not intimidating,” Mack said. “But people in the club are willing to show anyone how to ride safely and efficiently.”

The group is open to students from each of the Five Colleges and has about 20 active members. Not everyone has to take part in the weekend competitions, but everyone is encouraged to ride together on local trails.

Christina Yacono can be reached at [email protected]